Dealing with bias and stereotypes can be devastating, but mentors are like “social vaccines,” says psychology professor Nilanjana Dasgupta in a recent issue of The Atlantic, “They inoculate the mind against the stultifying effects of negative stereotypes.”
It’s no secret that girls are being bombarded from every angle with messages telling them who they should and should not be. What size, what they should be into, and what they should want for themselves. The girls we work with at The W frequently tell us stories about how they feel out of place in science class, how they aren’t given the same opportunities to participate as boys, and about how they are told that instead of engineering, they should pick a career that “better suits their gender” (true story! I know — horrifying).
That’s why, here at The W, YWCA Cambridge’s collective space for women and girls, we offer free programming for girls to come together and share their passions and fears, successes and learnings in a safe space. Our goal is to help girls build confidence in themselves and their abilities so that they feel empowered to confront the biases and sexism they face, and think critically about what they internalize. That’s where mentors make a huge difference.
In our STEM Mentoring program, girls work in small groups led by a trained female mentor who works in a STEM field. Over the course of 8 months, the girls work with their mentor to explore topics related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in a space where performance does not measure success or strength. Instead, we measure success by lessons learned, perseverance and having a great time.
Seeing strong women who have had to and continue to fight the same battles as them helps the girls to understand that a career in STEM is possible. That they are enough, and that they have what it takes.
The STEM Mentoring program is currently recruiting mentors for the 2017/2018 program session. We are looking for female identified professionals working in a STEM based career, who have an interest in impacting the lives of girls in their community. If that’s you, please contact Nora Richter, STEM Mentoring Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (519) 622-9960, for more information and an application form.
Guest post by Nora Richter